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Synopsis: The Election Commission had asked the court to not let the media cover its verbal hearing. It should withdraw its request to recover some of its moral high ground.
The Election Commission of India is a constitutional body that draws its mandate to conduct free and fair elections from Article 324. It has built a desirable reputation for impartiality and public trust. However, the EC has appeared too weak to political pressures amid a pandemic.
- The election commission approached the Supreme Court against the sharply critical observations by the Madras High Court about its management of elections.
- The HC said that possibly EC should face murder charges. EC complained in the apex court by stating that these comments are blatantly critical and derogatory. It further suggested that a line should be drawn so that such remarks are not reported by the media.
- The complaint shows disregard for an open and democratic public sphere.
- The Supreme Court in its response rightly said that it is essential for constitutional bodies to take criticism from other constitutional bodies in the right spirit.
- The people have a right to be informed. The media has a duty to cover the unfolding of debate in the court of law not just its final verdict.
Where did the election commission go wrong?
The EC should take a moment to pause and do an honest introspection. It has invited serious questions from the start of the poll exercise.
- Firstly, the eight-phase schedule for the West Bengal polls was overstretched especially during a pandemic. The EC ignored requests by opposition parties to shorten the election duration by clubbing together the last few phases.
- Moreover, the segregation of phases and geographies seemed to favor a specific political party.
- Secondly, the EC made only casual attempts to make sure that COVID protocols were followed by candidates and parties. The COVID curve rose up in West Bengal and the rest of India.
- India crossed daily cases of 1 lakh on April 4. The daily cases to over 3 lakhs by registering 3,32,730 on April 22.
- Thirdly, the EC only banned roadshows and public meetings of over 500 after the Prime Minister’s announcement of the cancellation of his election meetings scheduled for the next day.
What should the election commission do?
- The EC had gained the trust of people over the years. It should focus on maintaining it. This will require constant awareness and work. The EC must know that the impression is growing of late that it has let itself go.
- The EC needs to act to regain and restore its hard-earned credibility. It should begin by withdrawing its self-indulgent and ill-conceived petition from the Supreme Court.
- In a time when a stout executive does not hesitate to weaponize its mandate, the independence of monitorial institutions is especially precious and needed.
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